The path from earning the Designed to Earn the ENERGY STAR Label to actually earning an ENERGY STAR label is not necessarily a quick one. Not even for the EPA itself.
When the GSA was looking for a build-to-suit contract for the new EPA regional headquarters in Colorado, language requiring the design meet Designed to Earn was right in the RFP, which Opus Corporation won.
The requirements were significant, says Jim Blackledge, director of Strategy Groups and owner’s representative for Opus at the time. The building design had to meet the minimum rating of 75, with a goal of 85. Because it is an EPA-occupied facility, one might assume the goal would be as near-perfect a rating as possible, but funding was limited due to a congressional appropriation. “It’s like building a LEED Platinum building to get a 100 in ENERGY STAR. The design team was realistic,” he says.
The headquarters’ design gained Designed to Earn in 2006 with a rating of 86 and was fully occupied by March 2007. The original lease language sought to achieve the ENERGY STAR label within 14 months of occupancy, says Amy Smith, senior property manager for Opus Northwest Management. However, the contract has since been amended to say the label will be required by June 2009.
“Right now, the numbers are not a clear reflection of the energy efficiency of the building,” Smith says. “New buildings need a year of commissioning activities to get top efficiencies.”
One example of issues to get straightened out during the shakedown period was a steam meter that was generating incorrect data. If that data had been used, the building would have looked like an energy hog, Smith says.
Carefully examining the building for actual use once it’s occupied is another important activity, she says. Operational efficiencies can often be discovered.
“Don’t assume that the designed use is the actual use,” she says. “You can get efficiencies by looking at actual use and adjusting the system to properly condition areas for that use.” For example, the Region 8 Headquarters includes a large educational center on the first floor that was never built out. The space is now used for storage, which requires different conditioning than the original design.
Smith says the facility is on track to apply for the ENERGY STAR label using 2008 energy data and is currently tracking at a 92.
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